Work with refugees and immigrants: 'We are all part of the human family'
A family of five finally reunited after a year-long separation. A survivor of human trafficking building a new life for herself and her child. Two parents desperate to get their son critical medical care in the midst of a warzone.
In 2022, Catholic Charities Boston's Refugee and Immigrant Services (RIS) Division assisted these families, along with hundreds more, in finding a sense of security and renewed hope in the U.S. after fleeing poverty, political instability, war, violence, and natural disasters.
"We have a lot of things here and every person has been helpful to me," said one Afghan client, who fled Kabul after the Taliban takeover in 2021 and worked with Catholic Charities' RIS Department upon arrival in the U.S. "We take English classes online through Zoom and they are helping me apply for a job and housing. We are very grateful."The situations that many migrants and refugees find themselves in are often complicated and full of uncertainty. What is certain, however, is that the needs are growing. The sheer number of Haitian migrants seeking assistance this year prompted the agency to restructure its client intake model to serve larger groups at a time, while referrals of unaccompanied migrant children increased by 20 percent.
"What propels me to continue this work, despite many negative noises and challenges, is that each time I am blessed to encounter a refugee or immigrant, I know I am seeing the face of God, and that I could be them and they could be me," said Marjean Perhot, vice president of Refugee and Immigrant Services. "We must remember these are children of God and respect their God-given dignity. We are all part of the human family."
Despite these unique challenges, countless stories emerged throughout 2022 that showcased the impact that donors, supporters, and volunteers have when working together to help their fellow humans in crisis:
An Afghan mother and her three children were separated from their husband and father during the evacuation of Kabul in 2021, arriving in Massachusetts without any resources or support network. In addition to providing them with housing and life's basic necessities, the agency also paired the family with a POWIR (Parishes Organized to Welcome Immigrants and Refugees) site, a group of generous and caring volunteers who worked with the family to provide resources and a sense of safety while the agency worked to reunite them with their husband and father in Canada this past August.
A "T" visa client and her young child who have been represented by Catholic Charities Boston since 2016 were approved for their green cards, eligible for permanent residency due to being the victims of human trafficking.
A Ukrainian family enrolled in the agency's Welcome Circles for Ukrainians was able to provide their two-year-old son with celiac disease with critical care. As of May, Catholic Charities Boston has enrolled 94 new Ukrainian humanitarian parolees fleeing the Russian invasion with case management services.
And when 50 Venezuelan migrants unexpectedly arrived in Martha's Vineyard in September, Catholic Charities Boston volunteers quickly packaged up 150 "comfort kits" containing essential items to send to the Joint Base Cape Cod. Catholic Charities interpreter and legal immigration teams stood at the ready to provide services to these migrants and the hundreds who have already arrived and will continue to seek refuge in Massachusetts.
The Refugee and Immigrant Services team at Catholic Charities anticipates the increase of families and individuals seeking assistance as poverty, war, and climate change causes major disruptions in the lives of others across the globe. As such, the agency's multilingual and multicultural team will continue to provide culturally sensitive and trauma-informed support, resources, and guidance in 2023.
The Welcome Circles for Ukrainians is one way that individuals interested in refugee and immigration work can become involved, partnering with volunteers willing to provide financial support, guidance, and community connections to help Ukrainians resettle in Massachusetts. To learn more about the program as well as additional opportunities and staff openings within the division of Refugee and Immigrant Services, visit ccab.org.
SHANNON LYONS IS THE PR AND COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER FOR CATHOLIC CHARITIES BOSTON.